Over the course of the pandemic, it has been painfully obvious to us how different our experience of the church has become. We are deeply aware of what we have lost- Eucharist, singing, worshipping together, passing the peace, coffee hour and on and on the list goes. We have, however, captured glimpses of “good stuff” over this year and a half. We have been caught by surprise to realize, in the midst of this never-ending season of change and adaptation, that maybe we appreciate having a less busy life, that maybe we enjoy spur of the moment phone calls, that maybe we have greater contact with distant loved ones through video chats, that maybe we can be creative in ways we never thought possible.
As we move closer to full face-to-face worship and the resumption of church life, we need to take time to reflect upon how we’ve been changed by the pandemic. It would be so easy for us to charge forward with our usual Sunday worship, the usual ACW and church committee meetings, the usual coffee hour and social gatherings, without even asking ourselves, if this is how we want to do things now? At each turning point in our lives, we often reassess what matters to us, what has sustained us through tough times, what keeps us feeling like we have purpose and meaning in our lives. Coming out of this COVID pandemic is certainly one of those turning points.
The Primate’s “Surprised by the Spirit” program is a process by which we all can take a moment to reflect upon how the pandemic has touched us for both good and ill. More than this assessment of where we are now, we also need to reflect on where we see ourselves going. How do we wish to face the future? What’s important to us now? What is important to the communities we live in? “Surprised by the Spirit” is a short, small group process that offers us an opportunity to at least come to some preliminary sense of ourselves now. It also offers us a chance to think about what we will take away from this difficult, scary, uncertain time that has transformed so much of what we considered “how things are.” Whether we participate in a formal “Surprised by the Spirit” group or not, reflection is needed for us all.
Becoming aware of what has surprised us, is one aspect of this reflection process, but interwoven with our mindful reflection is our consciousness of the workings of the Spirit over this time. How has the Spirit been present to us throughout the pandemic? What have we learned about God and how has our relationship with God changed? What have we discovered about our faith and how we live it when many of the givens of our faith life were denied us? How is what’s important to us about the church changed through this time? What might God be desiring of us, as individuals, as faith communities? We are being invited not only by the Primate, but by God, to take the time to stop, to be still, to be aware of God and God’s vision of how we as the Church might be in the world. May we be as aware as possible of God’s presence with us as we search for direction for the lives of all the church community.